Updated: May 11
STEM is her Superpower! She makes STEM look Dope! 14-year-old Pred-Medical Student, Alena Analeigh, Nickelodeon “Top 20 Kid of The Year finalist” and the recipient of the “2022 Global Child Prodigy of The World in Science. Featured on the cover of Ebony Magazine in February of 2022 as the “Top Ten HBCU STEM Queens.” She has been nominated for a “Kennedy Center Honor Award.” She has received over ten proclamations granted to her, naming April 30th as Alena Wicker Day and Cedar Hill, TX., and “Brown STEM Girl STEM In the City Day,” as well as several cities throughout the United States. I think it's pretty clear from this introduction how amazing Alena is! I was honored to interview this amazing young lady about her educational journey. Here's what she shared.
Hi Alena, I am so proud of you. Congratulations on all your achievements. Thank you.
My pleasure. Are you from California? Yes, ma'am, I was born in Fontana.
Were you born at Kaiser? Yes, I was born at Kaiser Fontana.
Wow! My son was also born there. That's a great hospital. The staff takes excellent care of their patients. Are you still residing in California? No, ma'am, I'm in Texas.
What age were you when you moved to Texas? As far as my age is concerned, I am not sure, but I was quite young at the time.
Awesome! Do you enjoy living in Texas? I love Texas.
What do you love most about Texas? I love the culture, the food, the people, and the community. I love everything about Texas.
When I think about Texas, I think about the food and the BBQ. (laughs) It is amazing.
Were you raised in a two-parent home? My mom raised me as a single parent.
Super awesome! Let's talk about your childhood. How old were you when your mom first noticed you were academically gifted? I was around three or four years old.
What specifically did you do to make her realize that her child is gifted? My reading skills were so advanced that I read entire chapter books and was very smart. I also loved LEGO, and I still do. I'm a builder. When I was around four years old, I always knew when someone messed with my LEGO because they weren't toys to me; they were valuable.
Awesome! I love it! So, did you play with baby dolls and Barbies? I never played with Barbies, but I did collect and play with American Girl Dolls. Although I was an American Girl Doll collector, I always gravitated back to my LEGO. I collect LEGO and use them to build. I loved them.
Which LEGO creation are you most proud of? I built The Taj Mahal and the Millennium Falcon.
Are you serious? Did you take a picture of them? Yes. I have a picture. It took me 12 hours.
That is insane! Good for you! I also loved stars, so my mother took me to NASA centers. However, I found my true passion in " STEM."
Well done! Did your peers recognize your giftings while you were in school, and how did they respond to you? I was primarily homeschooled. While in kindergarten, I attended a traditional school. Unfortunately, I was only there for a while because kids made fun of me because I was super bright. They would tease me and call me a brainiac and say mean things. As a result, I started homeschooling and world schooling in Amman, Jordan.
Could you explain world schooling to our readers unfamiliar with it? Yes, we learn while traveling the world. So, I lived in Amman, Jordan for a while. It was the most amazing experience of my life!
Wow, I'm sure it was! Only a few children your age can experience that type of education and world travel. What a blessing from the Lord! I rode horses and camels and even got baptized in the Jordan River. There were so many other great experiences I had as well.
No way! Wow! That is awesome! It was super cool, and because I am a Christian, to know that I was walking where Jesus walked was so amazing! I love Aman, Jordan so much that I would like to return and provide healthcare to Syrian refugee kids when I graduate Med school. It's something I'm passionate about.
When was the last time you attended traditional school? As a child, I attended traditional school intermittently, but the last time being in public school was in seventh grade. Not only was I in middle school, high school, and homeschooling at the same time, but I also attended traditional school and homeschooling simultaneously.
I loved my school. When I completed all my high school work, I chose to graduate and start college.
How old were you when you graduated high school? I was twelve.
That's impressive. Thank you for sharing that! Has your intellect ever made you feel like you missed out on childhood? Sometimes people ask me that question, and the truth is that I never felt as though I missed out on anything. I love my life, I love school, and I love the people who are around me. My friends will always be my friends, and we will always be there for one another. Thus, I wasn't deprived of my childhood.
What are some of the extracurricular activities that you like to do when you're not in school? I do things that typical teenagers do. I enjoy going to the movies. I'm highly competitive, so I like sports, track and field, cheerleading, and soccer. Also, for two years, I participated in the "All-Region Choir." I was also recently selected to sing with the Honors Choir at Carnegie Hall.
So that's cool! You are truly phenomenal! Thank you. Many people find this hard to believe, but I still have a normal life. The only difference is that I'm super smart and can communicate with adults, college students, and those in my peer group.
Alena, what is your IQ? I don't know. I have never had my IQ tested. I'm not a big advocate for standardized tests. I 'm not against it, but I disagree with standardized testing because I don't feel like it can tell the true capability of a child's knowledge or intelligence.
For example, although I'm not the best test taker, I'm on the Dean's list. Except for one B, I have all A's. But I could totally bomb out on a test. I believe that tests do not accurately reflect what a child can comprehend. I think that's part of the problem with our school districts.
I agree. Every child learns differently and at their speed. One size does not fit all. Well said. Alena, how are gifted students eligible for educational advancement? Is there a particular test that you must take? How does that process work? As someone who was homeschooled, I have no knowledge of how that process works in a traditional school. In my case, I would take my classes, and when I had advanced in that class, I moved on to the next.
At one point, you were interested in NASA and wanted to become an engineer. Can you tell me more about that? Yes, ma'am. At one point, my major was engineering. The first time I took an engineering class in college, I knew I didn't want to pursue that career path. I then told my mother I wanted to become a doctor.
When I told her that, she thought I was crazy, but I repeated that I wanted to be a doctor.
In hindsight, it fell in line with my lifelong passion. I've always been passionate about anything associated with "STEM." Whether science, technology, or engineering, "STEM" was the common ground. As a result, I dropped my engineering class, changed my major, and never looked back.
Please tell me what exactly caused you to see engineering in a negative light. I had to build a chair.
I would have been done too. (laughs) It wasn't just about building a chair; we were required to lay out the entire diagram of that process. It was so technical that I thought, yeah, I don't want to do this. Also, everybody in the class was far advanced and knew what they were doing. Although it was a beginners class, it was different than being an advanced biology class. In advanced biology, I felt like I fit in. So, that was the primary reason I dropped the engineering class and changed my major. I'm happy I made that decision because I enjoy every moment of school. I love my biology and chemistry classes as well.
That's awesome. Let's talk about where you are today. How did you become interested in viral immunology? Finding my true career path was easy. Choosing to go into the medical field whether my PhD or my MD was an easy choice for me. It all goes back to STEM just a different form of STEM. When I look back on my time volunteering with Syrian Refugee kids and my passion for studying viral immunology and infectious disease. Here I am it was all a part of God's plan for my life. And if I change my mind later it is ok, I am 14 I am discovering and becoming.
Can you tell me what a viral immunologist does? Viral Immunology is the study of immune responses to viruses. I want to study viruses and help find cures.
Do you have other passions in the medical field? Yes, I also have a passion for studying cancer. Recently, my research proposal was accepted to study endometrial cancer, so I'm excited about that. I don't know what the future looks like for me. Whatever it is, I am excited. I want to be the best version of me and continue to leave my mark in the world. One day you will call me doctor, that I do know for sure.
At one point, I thought I wanted to be a flight surgeon. Has that changed? I can't answer that. I enjoy every moment of my life, taking each day as it comes along and focusing on my studies. Although I'm unsure where I'll ultimately end up, I know I was put on this earth to be a doctor in whatever capacity that looks like for me.
I plan to go to Med school. I will graduate college in January 2024. I will start Med school in 2024, and if all goes according to plan, I'll graduate Med school when I'm 18. I hope to have an excellent residency match and see what happens from there. I'm just enjoying the journey.
In summary, I want to help the world and help underrepresented communities and underrepresented people of color who lack health care and can't afford it. Health care is a big deal, and not having access to it in some communities is a big deal. So, I want to be a change-maker and an example for other little girls that look like me to show them that whatever they decide to do, they can do it. Nobody can stop you.
That’s beautiful, Alena. Tell me, what went through your mind when you received your letter of acceptance into med school? As my mom and I sat together, I stared in disbelief.
Some people think it's because of my age or because I'm so smart that they just accepted me, but that's far from the truth.
Which universities have you attended, and which are you attending now? I was formerly a student at Oakwood University and am currently a student at Arizona State University and a student in Barrett Honors College.
Can you tell me what your GPA is at the moment? My current GPA is 3.85.
Wow! My biology department chair Elaine Vanterpool Ph. D mentioned an early assurance acceptance program into Med school with UAB. I didn't know much about the program because I was already late in the admissions process, so I told my mom that I wanted to apply because I thought that would be a great way to get into med school. My mom will never tell me no because she knows my path. Therefore, her answer to me was to go for it. So, I stayed up late at night preparing my personal statement and application and readying myself for interviews.
Dr. Vanterpool was instrumental in this entire process by preparing me and teaching me how to fill out a medical school application, how to interview, how to prepare a personal statement, what to say, and what not to say. I absorbed everything she said to me. That's all I could do.
I was excited and nervous when I found out I had an interview. The interview was about 2 hours. After my interview, I wondered how well I did. Although I thought I did good, I needed clarification. A little time passed until I finally received a letter that I had been accepted into the Burroughs welcome scholars' program at UAB!
Tell me more about that. It's the Med school program that UAB has with Oakwood University, Alabama A&M, Tuskegee, and Alabama State, with those HBCUs. Additionally, it ensures your entry into medical school.
So, I was one of the ones selected, and that's how I got in. It was a long process, but I got in, and I'm super excited! I'm proud of myself for going for it and not allowing fear and doubt to keep me from applying. With tremendous gratitude, I acknowledge Dr. Vanterpool and all my mentors. They're all amazing!
It's so beautiful to see the journey you're on, and I believe that God gave you this desire because this was His will for your life. No matter what you choose to do, you will succeed. Thank you.
You're welcome. So, tell me, Alena, what does your daily schedule entail? I'm super organized. Everything doesn't always go as planned, but generally, I get up early in the morning, about 5:30, and start my day with my classes. I have tutoring, and then I sit in my teachers' office hours.
Even if I don't need help, I still sit there because that's important to me for my teacher to know who I am. Then, other students may come to office hours and have questions I may have yet to think of.
As a minor, do you sit in class with adults during college studies? Yes, when I attended Oakwood University, I lived on campus and attended classes with adults.
How was that experience for you? It was fine. It was no different from being in another class. They didn't look at me any differently. I was a little sister to them. Some people checked on me to make sure that I was doing well. So, it was no different; I was doing the same work that they were doing in class and the lab.
Your accomplishments in such a short time are extraordinary, Alena. What awards and recognitions have you received? Yes. I was the Times Nickelodeon “Top 20 Kid of The Year finalist” and the recipient of the “2022 Global Child Prodigy of The World in Science. I was featured on the cover of Ebony Magazine in February of 2022 as the “Top Ten HBCU STEM Queens” I was nominated for a “Kennedy Center Honor Award,” I have over ten proclamations that have been granted to me naming April 30th as, Alena Wicker Day and Cedar Hill, TX. and “Brown STEM Girl STEM in the city day” as well as several cities throughout the United States.
Praise God for that! I'm grateful to God for what He's doing in your life! I'm proud of you! Can you tell our readers about "The Brown STEM Girl" mentorship program? Yes. I have approximately 430 girls that I mentor. My website https://bsgscholars.brizy.site provides more information.
Did you start that organization? I did. I started The Brown STEM Girl to give opportunities to girls of color and STEM. Whether health care, Engineering, Science, Math, or whatever, I want to provide an opportunity. Also, I offer a STEM abroad program for which I'm currently crowdfunding and raising money. At present, we have two girls that need to be sponsored.
I want them to see and experience the world beyond where they live. I also have a scholarship program and a mentorship program. So, it's cool and fun. I make STEM look dope, and STEM is my SUPERPOWER!
Is public speaking something you do? Yes, I go everywhere.
Have you ever spoken on “Ted?” I will be hosting a TED event in the near future with ETRE Girls.
What are your plans after you receive your doctorate? Do you plan on pursuing another doctorate, or will you remain in the field of your current interest? No, once I'm done, I will enjoy just being able to work in my field. I'm passionate about advocating for kids, homeschool education, free access to healthcare, and underrepresented communities and communities of color.
Those are my primary areas of great interest. One day, I may be working for the White House on the STEM and science committee. I want to be a change-maker in healthcare, science, and STEM.
What advice would you give to other parents raising gifted children? Give your child the opportunity to mess up and make mistakes. Please give them a chance to learn who they are, and not so much who you as a parent want them. One of the reasons my mom and I have such a fantastic relationship is because my mom allowed me to mess up and make mistakes.
She allowed me to figure out what I was passionate about and didn't force things on me. For example, if I wanted to try cheerleading and decided I no longer wanted to do it, she didn't force me to stay in something I was no longer interested in.
What advice would you give to children struggling academically and feeling discouraged? I would say to them, the sky is not the limit. If they don't offer you a seat at the table, you build the building, create your door, and put your table in the room. Let them come to you. No matter your age, never give up on your dreams. It doesn't matter how old you are. There is no limit to what you can accomplish—I'm living proof of that.
You made black history. Yes, I recently became the youngest person ever to be accepted into medical school. And when I was twelve, I became the youngest person ever to intern for NASA.
Congratulations! That's awesome. I want to conclude this interview with one final question. What advice would you give to someone pursuing their dreams? What I would say to them, dream big and never give up. If anyone tells you that you can't do something, you tell them you can. Don't worry about what people say; it doesn't matter. If they don't offer you a seat at the table, build your building, create your door, put a table in the room, and let them come to you. Also, live your dreams and be happy because the sky is not the limit. So up in the world not just for yourself, but for others.
It's been a super pleasure to speak with you today, Alena. What a gift from God you are on this earth. I am proud of you and your amazing mom, who raised you to be such a well-spoken, respectable, and amazing young lady. I’m proud of both of you! I pray that God will protect you and your family and keep you safe, and I pray that God will continue to open doors for you, be it done according to His will for your life. Last, I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide you throughout your journey. Last, Keep up the great work! May God bless you, and thank you so much for your time. Thank you.
You are so welcome.
Photo credits: The cover photo and the photo with the book by, Keith Major for Ebony Magazine. All other photos are by: D Lacy Photography Dallas, TX.
To purchase the magazine, visit THE INDIE POST | ALENA ANALEIGH | FEBRUARY 05, 2023 ISSUE VOL 3: Sedman, Gina: 9798376112380: Amazon.com: Books